English Literature - Poems - Partition


Partition - Sujata Bhatt - Context

The Partition of India was the division of British India in 1947 which accompanied the creation of two independent dominions, India and Pakistan. It led to the largest mass migration in human history, displacing 14million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Muslims were forced into the west and east of Pakistan and Hindus were forced into India. In this poem, Bhatt speaks of the speaker's mother and her experience of Partition. The mother mentions how guilty she felt about not doing enough to help the Muslims waiting at the Ahmedabad railway station for their journey to Pakistan.

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Partition - Sujata Bhatt - Quotes

  • "She" + "Ahmedabad railway station" - Other than general terms such as "garden" and "cries" the only particular information provided throughout most of the poem is the mention of "Ahmedabad railway station". This denotes that only the location and the idea that people were leaving are of importance. Who this happened to does not matter, given the immensity of the situation. This, therefore, enhances the large-scale impact that Partition has had on the country and its people. - Using such general terms also enhances this idea because they are interchangeable with many different people. This shows that Partition had such a large impact that this story could be coming from anyone because such a large number of people experienced similar traumatic events. 
  • "she could hear the cries of the people stranded in the Ahmedabad railway station" - "stranded" suggests that they have been deserted and completely and carelessly disregarded by the government. - "cries" suggest toward their suffering and toward what a traumatic ordeal Partition has been for them.
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Partition - Sujata Bhatt - Quotes

  • "garden" + "cries of the people..." - The semantic field of the garden is dramatically juxtaposed with "the cries of the people" at Ahmedabad railway station. While a garden connotes visions of lovely flowers and scents, as well as, calming surroundings and a generally pleasant disposition, the cries connote distress and anguish. These parallel images suggest that, while a greater calm once existed, Partition has completely eliminated it and brought about "endless" adversity and affliction.
  • "She felt it was endless - their noise -" - The collective pronoun and use of the adjective "endless" makes them seem unimportant in the eyes of the government. They are simply "a new sound added to the city", easily drowned out by the hustle and bustle and not much attention is paid to them.
  • "-" - Repetition of dashes may represent how hard it is for the mother to recall these horrific events.
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Partition - Sujata Bhatt - Quotes

  • "she felt afraid, felt she could not go with her aunt" + "each day she wished she had the courage to go with her aunt" - "could not" suggests that she had desperately wanted to go yet her fear overwhelmed her had prevented her from doing so. Perhaps this may resemble how though the different religious groups located in British India had wanted to stand up to the tyrannical government they were too afraid of what may happen.
  • "even the birds sounded different" - Once again emphasises the large-scale impact that Partition has had, disrupting every aspect of people lives.
  • "the shadows cast by the neem trees brought no consolation" - Not even the trees which protected her from the harsh sun could console her, perhaps because she knew that the people at the train station were suffering and thus felt guilty for having any contentment. - Shadows could represent how she was 'in the dark' about the whole situation, supposedly protected by her ignorance yet, even despite that, she still experienced the horrific fear of Partition.
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Partition - Sujata Bhatt - Quotes

  • "But how I wish I had gone with my aunt" - This phrase is inverted, drawing attention to it and emphasising the significance of it in her mind and thus how affected she has been by her guilt.
  • "I still feel guilty about that." - The phrase "guilty about that" is also inverted showing how deep her regret is.
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Partition - Sujata Bhatt - Quotes

  • "How could they have let a man who knew nothing about geography divide a country?" - 'It is interesting that her qualm about the man who divided the country is noted as him not understanding “geography,” as if this is the detail that disqualifies him as being able to make such a call. More likely, however, Bhatt is referring to the man’s lack of understanding of the tension in British “India” that happened prior to the “Partition.” The trivial detail being used to express this idea shows how the decision to divide the country was too simple. Just as something as basic as “geography” is too small a reason to label this man unqualified in comparison to other faults, the separation into India and Pakistan was a solution to the tension that was not necessarily thought out and potentially lacked sensibility. Basically, it was an easy solution, but Bhatt believes not the correct one.'
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